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Kline: Labor Department Obstructing Oversight of Controversial WARN Act Guidance

House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN), along with Workforce Protections Subcommittee Chairman Tim Walberg (R-MI) and Representative Phil Roe, M.D. (R-TN) today renewed a request for documents and communications related to the development of guidance concerning sequestration and the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act. In a letter to Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, the committee members note the department’s failure to provide a response to the committee’s previous efforts to gather additional information about the guidance.

“The Labor Department is trying to hide the consequences of sequestration from workers,” said Rep. John Kline. “The department’s refusal to answer our questions regarding its controversial guidance and how it will affect families and businesses across the country is just the latest in a disturbing pattern of congressional obstruction. With thousands of jobs on the line, Secretary Solis has an obligation to provide Congress this information without further delay.”

The WARN Act requires employers with more than 100 employees to give affected workers 60 days’ notice of mass layoffs or plant closings. On July 30, the Department of Labor’s Assistant Secretary for Employment and Training Administration released guidance that states the WARN Act does not require federal contractors affected by sequestration to provide notice. As a result, workers across the country may not be notified of potential job losses. Additionally, the department’s own regulatory policies confirm it has neither the enforcement power over the WARN Act nor the authority to issue ‘advisory opinions’ in specific cases.

On August 2, the committee requested documents and communications concerning the department’s misleading and incomplete guidance by August 16. The department has failed to provide the information requested or offer any explanation for the delay. Since that time, the administration has released a report outlining how President Obama will implement the sequester. The committee leaders note in their letter:
The report underscores the indiscriminate nature of sequestration’s across-the-board cuts and the need for a comprehensive deficit reduction plan that ensures sustainable fiscal responsibility and protects national security. However, the report does not answer contractors’ concerns and questions with respect to the WARN Act. To fulfill our legislative and oversight responsibilities, pursuant to Article I of the Constitution and Rule X of the Rules of the House of Representatives, we must receive in timely fashion requested information concerning laws and matters within the committee’s jurisdiction.
To read the letter to Secretary Solis, click here.


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